New Year’s cleaning; a four-legged soldier; CM of the week: Paburon

There are many customs and traditions associated with New Year’s, but housecleaning tends to get overlooked since it isn’t very sexy. However, this week the quiz show “Wafu Sohonke” (“Head Family of Japanese Style”; TV Tokyo, Thurs., 9 p.m.) will look at New Year’s cleaning traditions in detail.

Since New Year’s housecleaning has religious overtones, the program will mainly visit Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to show how these facilities are spruced up. Removing a year’s worth of grime from a heavy bell or an intricately sculpted statue requires time and effort, not to mention special techniques. There are also rituals involved with cleaning these artifacts, and the priests and monks who perform them have to wear special clothing. One shrine even finds a use for the fallen leaves within its precinct.

The show also visits a few hot-spring resorts to see how they clean house.

During World War II, the Japanese military commandeered everything it could for the war effort. NHK’s special two-hour drama, “Sayonara Aruma: Akagami wo Morau Inu” (“Goodbye Alma: The Dog That Received a Draft Notice”; Sat., 9 p.m.), explains how this policy was extended to four-legged property.

In 1941, when his friend Kenta leaves their hometown to fight, Taichi (Ryo Katsuji) agrees to take care of Kenta’s German shepherd, Alma. Over the next year he becomes close to the dog and trains her thoroughly. Alma becomes so disciplined, in fact, that she is “drafted” for military service. Taichi is heartbroken.

But later, as the war turns against Japan, Taichi himself is drafted and is sent to Manchuria, where he is reunited with Alma under very different circumstances.

CM of the week

Paburon: As soon as temperatures start to drop, Taisho Pharmaceutical floods the airwaves with ads for its over-the-counter cold remedy Paburon. For several decades the company has used well-known actresses such as Nobuko Otowa and Yoshiko Mita to play a housewife who seems to catch colds at the drop of a hat but always springs back to life with the help of Paburon, which the ads always insist you should take as soon as you notice the first sign of sniffles.

Keiko Takeshita has played this role for about 10 years now, and Yuria Sugimoto has virtually grown up on TV as her preternaturally cheerful daughter. In the latest, mom is in a panic because “papa” has a cold and she can’t find the Paburon. Luckily, her daughter has picked up some Paburon on her way home. Mom is so relieved she practically faints, but a moment later, after the explanatory voice-over, she’s looking for something else she can’t find. Too bad Paburon doesn’t do anything for midlife memory loss.